Place-Name Glossary

This is a glossary of Scots words which are used in place-names. Each entry gives the meaning of the word, alongside linguistic notes (discussed below) and modern and historical examples of the word in actual place-names in Scotland.

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Modern Form: stank
Older Scots Form: stank
Etymology: OF estanc
PoS: n
Definition: a pool, a pond, a fish pond (on an estate); the area of ground around a pond; a small semi-stagnant (overgrown) sheet of water, a stretch of slow-moving water, a sluggish stream; a ditch, an open watercourse; a gutter, a drainage channel
Modern Examples: Black Stank (Wigtownshire); Stankards (West Lothian); Fivestanks (West Lothian); Gowan Stank (West Lothian)
Historical Evidence: Castilstank 13thC; Hawedenstank 1397; Houden Stank 1398; Stank of Fowles 1590
SND Link: stank n1; S2 stank n1
DOST Link: stank n1

Modern Form: star
Older Scots Form: star
Etymology: ON stǫrr
PoS: n
Definition: a species of grass or sedge (growing on moorish or boggy ground); land covered in sedges
Modern Examples: Starlaw (West Lothian); Starcleuch Edge (Roxburghshire); Star Wood (East Lothian); Star Burn (South Lanarkshire); Starhill (Banffshire)
Historical Evidence: star of Kelle 1471; (le) Starlaw 1468 the stare myr 1549; Sterlaw 1618
SND Link: star n2
DOST Link: star(e n3

Modern Form: steid
Older Scots Form: stede
Etymology: OE stede
PoS: n
Definition: an inhabited place, a hamlet or village; an area of land, a landed property or estate, a farm; a dwelling-place; the site of a building, the piece of land on which a building stands
Modern Examples: Newstead (Roxburghshire); Kirkstead (Selkirkshire); Millstead (Dumfriesshire); Castle Steads (Midlothian); Middlestead (Selkirkshire)
Historical Evidence: Selestede 1165-1214; Castilsted 13thC; le stede de Kynewarde 1509; Hannykyn kill steid 1560
SND Link: steid n; S2 steid n
DOST Link: sted(e, steid n1

Modern Form: stoddert, strother
Older Scots Form: srother
Etymology: OE *strōðer, ME strother
PoS: n
Definition: a marshy place
Modern Examples: Stockstrother (Roxburghshire); Bellstruther (Berwickshire); Yellowstruther (Midlothian); Williestrother Loch (Roxburghshire); Westruther (Berwickshire); Strutherhill (South Lanarkshire)
Historical Evidence: Harastrodar a1159; Kyrnestroder c1160; Strotherflat 13thC; Westsrother c1300
SND Link: stoddert n
DOST Link: strother n
Notes: Dodgy?

Modern Form: strath
Older Scots Form: strath
Etymology: Gael srath
PoS: n
Definition: a wide river valley, a stretch of relatively flat, fertile land bounded by hills
Modern Examples: Wester Strath (West Lothian); Strath of Kildonan (Sutherland); Strath Mill (West Lothian); Strath of Menteith (Perthshire); Strathloanhead (West Lothian)
Historical Evidence: La Strath de Ogilface 1386; the Strath of Menteth 1507-8; Easter Strayth 1588; Strath-loan 1682; Straith(h)ill 1698
SND Link: strath n, S2 strath n
DOST Link: strath(e, straith(e n

Modern Form: swine
Older Scots Form: swyne
Etymology: OE swīn
PoS: n
Definition: a pig, pigs
Modern Examples: Swinewaird (Kincardineshire); Swinewood (Berwickshire); Swineside Hall (Roxburghshire); Swineford (Midlothian); Soonhope (Berwickshire); Swine's Cleugh (Midlothian); Swinedrum (Kirkcudbrightshire); Swine Fell (Wigtownshire)
Historical Evidence: swhynhope c1200; Swineshales 1230; Swineford 1258; Swynschawis 1265
SND Link: swine n
DOST Link: swine, swyn(e n

Modern Form: swire
Older Scots Form: swyre
Etymology: OE swīra, ON svíri
PoS: n
Definition: a hollow or declivity between hills (through which a road runs); a hollow or level place near the top of a hill; a neck (of land)
Modern Examples: Redeswire Fray (Roxburghshire); Roughsware (Midlothian); Swyre (Dumfriesshire); Sware Brae (Kirkcudbrightshire); Swire Knowe (Roxburghshire); Dewar Swire (Midlothian); Sware Burn (Dumfriesshire); Sware Head (Kirkcudbrightshire); Sware Knowe (Dumfriesshire); Swire Syke (Roxburghshire); Ludsgill Sware (Dumfriesshire)
Historical Evidence: Hethouswyre 1214-49; Buchswyre 1327; Reid Swyre 1575; Hardhaugh swire c1800
SND Link: swire n
DOST Link: swire, swyr(e n

Modern Form: syke
Older Scots Form: sike
Etymology: OE sīc, ON sík
PoS: n
Definition: a small stream; a ditch or channel containing a stream or rivulet; a marshy hollow (through which a stream flows), a cleft in the ground
Modern Examples: Sikeside (North Lanarkshire); Colliesyke (West Lothian); Sauchy Sike (Dumfriesshire); Threepsikes (Fife); Adie's Syke (Midlothian); Liggat Syke (West Lothian); Whitesykes (Midlothian); Allery Sike (Dumfriesshire)
Historical Evidence: Blindsyke a1398; modirsyke 1457; Foulsyik 1571; Murroksyke 1579; Fouladge syke 1665; the syke called Coallyears boignesyke 1683
SND Link: syke n; S2 syke n
DOST Link: sike, syk(e n
Notes: See also DOST (siket) syketh, sichet, sychet n

Modern Form: taft
Older Scots Form: toft
Etymology: ON topt, OE toft
PoS: n
Definition: a homestead (and the attached land), the site of a house or buildings
Modern Examples: Taft (Orkney); Easter Tofts (South Lanarkshire); Upper Tofts (Roxburghshire); Tofthill Plantation (Fife); Edgerston Tofts (Roxburghshire); Greentoft (Orkney); Lower Toft (Roxburghshire)
Historical Evidence: Eghetofft 1214-49; Braytoftis 1248-9; Godemannistoft c.1235; Toftes 1296; Tofts 1622
SND Link: taft n
DOST Link: toft n1
Notes: See also DOST Tofting, Thoftyn, n

Modern Form: tail
Older Scots Form: tail
PoS: n
Definition: a tail; a long, narrow strip of ground, generally adjoining and stretching backwards from the site or garden of a house or croft; a small division of land attached to a larger division like a tail; the lower end or hindmost part of a piece of land or watercourse; the tail-race of a mill; the end of a sandbank
Modern Examples: Milltail (Fife); Tails of Stow (Orkney); Tail of the Skerry (Orkney)
Historical Evidence: Thailbog 1219-33; the taill of Quoybankis 1578; the taills of Auld Aberden 1608; the Tail End 1611; the tail of the bank 1822
SND Link: tail n; S2 tail n
DOST Link: tail, tale n

Modern Form: tarnty, taranty
Older Scots Form: trinité
Etymology: OF trinite
PoS: n
Definition: the trinity, the three aspects of the Godhead collectively
Modern Examples: Trinity Gask (Perthshire); Trinity (Angus, Edinburgh); Trinity College (Glasgow); Trinity Hall (Aberdeen); Trinity Church (Glasgow)
Historical Evidence: le Trinite burn 1488; College of Trynite 1498-99; Trinity Mure 1692; Auld Tarrnty Ha' 1887; Taranty Muir 1892
SND Link: tarnty n; S1 tar(a)nty n
DOST Link: trinité, trinity n

Modern Form: temple
Older Scots Form: tempil
Etymology: OE templ, OF temple
PoS: n
Definition: property or lands in the possession of the order of the Knights Templar or later the Hospitalers
Modern Examples: Templandmuir (Ayrshire); Temple (Midlothian); Templehall (Angus, Berwickshire, Fife); Temple of Boclair (Dunbartonshire); Temple Park (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Templeacre c1190; Tempilhalle 1368-69; Tempilhil 1446; Tempil Liston 1464
SND Link: temple n1
DOST Link: tempil(l, temple n1
Notes: See also DOST tempil(l)land n

Modern Form: temple-land
Older Scots Form: tempillland
Etymology: OE templ, OF temple + OE land
PoS: n
Definition: land given or belonging to the Knights Templar and as such not subject to teinds
Modern Examples: Templeland (Angus, Fife); Templeland Road (Edinburgh, Glasgow); Templeland Cottage (South Lanarkshire); Templeland Farm (Aberdeenshire)
Historical Evidence: Tempylland 1376-77; Tempilland 1446; tempilland of Dalgernow 1454-55; tempilland of Henderstoun 1611; temple land of St. Johns 1694
SND Link: temple n1
DOST Link: tempil(l)land n
Notes: See also DOSTtempil(l, temple n1

Modern Form: teuchit, teewheet
Older Scots Form: tuchet
Etymology: ME tuchet
PoS: n
Definition: the lapwing
Modern Examples: Teuchat Knowe (Fife); Teuchatcroft (Angus); Teuchathead (Fife); Teuchatmuir (Perthshire)
Historical Evidence: Tyhwitemore c1320; Tuquhyt Myre 1475; Tauchieflattes 1666; Tuewheet Law 1810
SND Link: teuchit n; teewheet n
DOST Link: tuchet, tuquheit n
Notes: Compare SND teeock n

Modern Form: thief
Older Scots Form: thefe
Etymology: OE þīof, þēof ON þiófr
PoS: n
Definition: one who steals, a robber or thief
Modern Examples: Thief Sike (Roxburghshire); Thiefs Cave (Perthshire); Thieves Knowes (Shetland); Thief's Hill (Dunbartonshire)
Historical Evidence: Theuisford 1147-60; Theuisbrig 1493; theiffis brig 1501-2; Theiffis-port 1574-75
SND Link: thief n; S1 thief n
DOST Link: thef(e, theif(e, thief n

Modern Form: thorn
Older Scots Form: thorne
Etymology: OE þorn, ON þorn
PoS: n
Definition: a thorn tree or bush, a hedge of thorn bushes
Modern Examples: Thornholme (South Lanarkshire); Thornhill (Aberdeen); Thornton (Fife, Midlothian); Nenthorn (Berwickshire); Hawthorn (Selkirkshire); Thornbank (Fife); Thornloan (Stirlingshire); Thorn Isle (Argyllshire)
Historical Evidence: Hardingesthorn 1133-47; Neithanesthyrn 1159; Thornton c1230; Thorneburht 1214-49; Thornedich c1250; Thornle 1403
SND Link: thorn n1
DOST Link: thorn(e n

Modern Form: thorny, toarny
Older Scots Form: thorny, thornie
Etymology: OE þornig
PoS: a
Definition: filled with or composed of thorn trees or bushes
Modern Examples: Thornybank (Banffshire); Thorniethwaite (Dumfriesshire); Thornyside (Ayrshire); Turniedykes (Midlothian); Thornyhaw (Fife); Thornyhills (South Lanarkshire); Thornyhive Bay (Kincardineshire); Thornycrook (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Thorniflat 1272-1316; Thornidyk a1300; Thornyle a1390; Thornydykis 1406
SND Link: toarny adj
DOST Link: thorny adj

Modern Form: thorter
Older Scots Form: thortour
Etymology: ME þwertouer
PoS: a
Definition: slanted, squint, awry; running across or at an oblique angle
Modern Examples: Thorterdykes (Roxburghshire); Thorter Fell (Kirkcudbrightshire); Thorter Row (Dundee); Thorter Burn (East Lothian)
Historical Evidence: Thwortour-Raw 1489-90; thuorter land 1490; thortyrland 1535; thuortour gaittis of Korstoun 1569; thorter raw 1720
SND Link: thorter adj
DOST Link: thorto(u)r, thwortour, thwartour adj

Modern Form: threap
Older Scots Form: threpe, threip
Etymology: ME Þrepe
PoS: n
Definition: a dispute, a quarrel (with regard to ownership of land)
Modern Examples: Thriepland (Banffshire); Threaprig (North Lanarkshire); Threepwood (South Lanarkshire); Threapmuir (Kinross-shire); Threipmuir Reservoir (Midlothian)
Historical Evidence: Threpland c1200; Hafthrepland 1383; Threpleche 1425; threpfelde 1463
SND Link: threap n, S2 threap n
DOST Link: threp(e, threip n

Modern Form: tod
Older Scots Form: tod
Etymology: ME tod
PoS: n
Definition: a fox
Modern Examples: Todhills (Angus, Midlothian); Todrig (Berwickshire); Todrigs Burn (Ayrshire); Todholes (Caithness, Dumfriesshire); Todlhole Knowe (Midlothian); Todhillock (Aberdeenshire); Todhead Point (Kincardineshire)
Historical Evidence: Todholerig 1165-82; Thodholesid 1214-49; Todlaw 1222; Todhillis 1587; Todhoillis 1621
SND Link: tod n1
DOST Link: tod n1

Modern Form: toll
Older Scots Form: tol
Etymology: OE toll
PoS: n
Definition: a tax or duty; a checkpoint on a turnpike road where tolls were collected, a toll-bar; (a collection point for) tolls on imported or exported goods, or the privelege of selling goods in a market
Modern Examples: Eglington Toll (Glasgow); Cameron Toll (Edinburgh); Barnhill Tollhouse (Perth); Tollcross (Edinburgh, Glasgow); Toll Bar Cott (Kirkcudbright); Clushford Toll (Fife); Bonnybridge Toll (Stirlingshire)
Historical Evidence: tolbotha de Suthbervyc 1283-98; le Tolcorse 1458; Towcross 1662; Cairntows 1773
SND Link: toll n1
DOST Link: tol(l n
Notes: See also DOST tolbuth(e, towbuth(e n and SND tolbooth n

Modern Form: toun
Older Scots Form: toun
Etymology: OE tūn
PoS: n
Definition: a farm (and farm buildings); a hamlet inhabited by estate tenants; a villlage, a burgh, a town; (in Shetland) the enclosed arable ground of a farm
Modern Examples: Anderston (Glasgow); Edgerston (Roxburghshire); Mertoun (Berwickshire); Ferryton (Ross and Cromarty); Beckton (Dumfriesshire); Smithton (Inverness); Westerton (Glasgow); Templeton (Angus); Synton (Selkirkshire)
Historical Evidence: Hadyton 1098; Sprostona 1119-24; Clerchetun c1141; Kyrchetune c1145; Hadingtoun a1150; Langtune c1150
SND Link: toun n; S1 toun n; S2 toun n
DOST Link: toun, town(e, ton(e n
Notes: See also DOST toun end n and toun heid n

Modern Form: tron
Older Scots Form: trone
Etymology: OF trone
PoS: n
Definition: the public steelyard or weighing-machine in a burgh, set up in or near the market-place for the weighing of various types of heavy or coarse goods; the district around the tron
Modern Examples: Trongate (Glasgow); Tron Kirk (Edinburgh); St George's-Tron Church (Glasgow); Tron (Edinburgh); Tron Knowe (North Lanarkshire)
Historical Evidence: Tronum de Edinburgh 1446; Troyne Gait 1545; Troingait 1553; Tron kirk 1689; Tron-knowe 1880
SND Link: tron n
DOST Link: tron(e n
Notes: See also SNDS1 trouan n

Modern Form: voe
Older Scots Form: voe, wo
Etymology: ON vágr
PoS: n
Definition: an inlet of the sea, a deep bay or long creek, a fjord
Modern Examples: Voe of Sound (Shetland); East Voe of Quarff (Shetland); West Voe of Sumburgh (Shetland); Voe of Clousta (Shetland)
Historical Evidence: Voe of Sara 1733; North Voe 1832; South Voe 1832; East Voe of Scalloway 1887
SND Link: voe n; S2 voe n
DOST Link: vo(e, wo n

Modern Form: wa
Older Scots Form: wall, waw
Etymology: OE weall, wall
PoS: n
Definition: a wall, a boundary wall; the defensive walls or ramparts (around a town or castle); (in plural) roofless buildings, ruins
Modern Examples: Dun’s Wa’s (Kirkcudbrightshire); Back o’ Wa’ (Wigtownshire); Waas (Fife); Jean's Wa's (Kirkcudbrightshire); Bratney Wa’s (Wigtownshire); Aitkin's Wa's (Kirkcudbrightshire)
Historical Evidence: (The) Corsswallis 1552; the walneuk of Paislaye 1621; Schawiswallis 1622; Grahames Walls 1649; Badgels-wolls 1681; Guns Walls 1755
SND Link: wa n; S2 wa n
DOST Link: wal(l, wa(w n

Glossary compiled by Dr Alison Grant of Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scottish Place-Name Society.

Linguistic Notes

The glossary provides the Modern Scots form of each place-name element, and then traces the word back through the Older Scots form to its etymological root. Illustration of the development of each element is found in the historical forms, and modern usage is illustrated by the current place-name examples provided. The glossary also provides references to the two major Scots dictionaries, the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) together with any relevant supplementary material (the first SND supplement is marked S1, and the second S2, and the additions to DOST are marked ADDS). These dictionaries can be accessed online at Further supplementary material has been added from two 1940s Ph. D. theses, The Non-Celtic Place-Names of the Scottish Border Counties by May Williamson and The Place Name of Midlothian by Norman Dixon, both of which are available for consultation in the ‘resources’ section of the Scottish Place-Name Society website. The glossary contains Scots words derived from Old English, Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Anglo-Norman French and Latin, together with more recent loan-words from Gaelic and Insular Norn. For example, the whilst ‘glen’ is primarily a Gaelic place-name element, occurring in names such as Glen Affric and Glenmore, the word was also borrowed into Scots, where it was used to form names such as Glenhead and Glens of Foudland. Similarly, although names in ‘geo’ are often from Old Norse gjá, including Ramnageo and Papilgeo, the word was also borrowed into Scots from Norn, and used to coin names such as Millburn Geo and Geo of Dykesend.Counties (where given) are pre-1975 local government reorganisation.

PoS = Part of Speech (noun, adjective, etc.)